They were going. They were finally going. They were all going! It had taken months of planning and saving, the kids using their earnings from the summer before, as well as Christmas and birthday money to fund their trips.
Amadeo was glad now that his father had convinced him to only donate half the money he'd earned last summer to the Veteran's Home. So now between holiday and birthday money, plus what he'd saved, he was on his way to the July 4th celebrations at the New York World Fair.
Angelo was especially excited not only to be going back to his old stomping grounds, but his new friends were finally going to see where he came from, and meet his old friends whom he'd kept in touch with as best as he could through letters and occasional phone calls.
Fifteen teenagers and eight adults, minus Mr. Di Marco who stayed behind to see to the animals and farm, were going. At Angelo's suggestion, Mr. Di Marco had hired interested members of the wrestling team to work the farm over the summer so he wouldn't be overwhelmed with the work.
Paul and John, who couldn't say no to the chance of getting back to New York even for a few days with the prospect of seeing the fireworks, went as well. New York, in their opinion, had yet to be outdone by anyone, anywhere, in their displays.
It had been a close call with Ethel's parents who took an extreme interest in their oldest daughter going on a long trip with a bunch of boys, only a few of whom they actually knew in person. The only reason she was allowed to 'hang out' with the other boys, they explained, was because her older brother was with her at all times. They were very concerned when they were told that Jim, her mother said in an exaggeratedly dreamy voice, would be going as well.
Mrs. Di Marco, Carmie and Terri met with them in person and assured them that they would all be there, so their daughter would be well chaperoned and sharing a room with Mrs. Di Marco who, with six boys, had hearing like a fox.
They left on July first, boarded the train that morning and headed out, excited and happy, giggling and chatting among themselves about the wonder that was New York, which Angelo and his mother and brothers had promised to introduce them to.
New York was everything that Angelo had promised and more. They finally, after several train changes, disembarked in the Grand Central Station, tired but awed at the size and noise. The other teenagers, who had grown up in a small town all of their lives, thought about their own little home town train station and grinned sheepishly at each other.
Once outside, Jim nearly toppled over trying to see the top of one of the buildings. Everyone had a good laugh. Jim blushed and smiled. He knew he looked exactly like what he was, a hayseed in the big city, but right now he didn't care. He just wanted to take everything in.
Ethel and several of the others were snapping pictures left and right. Mrs. Di Marco had to remind them to save some film for the fireworks on the fourth, or be prepared to spend some of their money on more film. They tried very hard to take fewer pictures, but the city was fascinating. There seemed to be something new and exciting around every corner.
Mrs. Di Marco, John, Paul, and Angelo, acted as tour guides, organizing taxi rides or walking expeditions to various places. That Saturday, the Georgia natives finally met Matthew, Mark and Luke, Angelo's older brothers, who had happily agreed to act as taxi drivers and extra tour guides.
Matt and Martina's children, Joshua and Dominic were adorable. Their skin a light coffee color and their hazel, mostly green eyes, fringed with dark lashes inherited from their mother. Angelo had explained in advance about his Moroccan heritage and his brother's brown skin so they were prepared, and no one said anything awkward, though to them he only looked deeply tanned, rather than brown.
Most evenings were spent at Matt's or Mark's houses, enjoying the hospitality of their homes and the antics of their children. The boys agreed that Matt's wife, Martina, was a goddess, making the woman blush and Ethel's eyes to turn a little green with envy.
Angelo's brother Marco, who preferred to be called by the diminutive of his middle name, Iggy; and is wife Natalia and their kids Peter and Matthew, treated them to a day at the beach.
The kids got into a sand sculpture competition among themselves and all agreed that Peter and Matthew's little house with pine trees in front was the winner, hands down.
The teens asked the Misters Di Marco to drive back and forth over the Brooklyn Bridge, 'Just once please?!' just so that they could go home and say they'd done it, snapping pictures out of the car windows as they did so.
When they visited the Di Marco's friends in Little Italy, Milo swore he'd never tasted food as good as what he experienced there. They'd not only visited a few of the restaurants but had also been fed by overzealous Italian mamas who thought the children were all too skinny.
"I'm not telling Mrs. Witt about this though," he said quietly to 'Deo. "If I tell her anything was as good as her chicken she might stop making it and then where will I be?"
Old friends and new got along as though they'd known each other all of their lives, and everyone laughed when Mrs. Rosetti, enamored by Milo's dimples, kept pinching his cheeks. Milo endured it stoically and good naturedly, theatrically rubbing his cheeks after they left and asking his friends if there was anything left of his face.
After a trip to Central Park, Jim complained that he'd never look at their little park in their little town in Georgia the same way. Angelo laughed and admitted that he much preferred their little park, earning mock gasps.
The kids from Georgia, until now, had never traveled far from their homes and had never been to a large museum before. The town about twenty miles away had a small one that mostly dealt with local history, and they'd been there on field trips for school, or day trips with their parents, but they'd never seen so many museums.
At the first mention of the word 'museum' the boys had been convinced that they were going to be bored stiff until they got to the Museum of Natural History. The adults actually had to start issuing ultimatums to get them to leave.
It was just as bad at the Guggenheim. The teens had giggled at the name at first, but when they went in the artworks fascinated them. They spent a lot of time admiring the sculptures and would have stood there staring at them, but the guards began to announce that the museum was closing and everyone had to leave.
Ethel decided to be cremated and scattered in the botanical gardens when she died. Until then she thought she'd be perfectly happy lying under the flowers and breathing in their scent. She'd been crushed when Mrs. Di Marco had told her that that wasn't allowed. She did wonder however, if weddings were allowed on the grounds.
They'd ridden the Staten Island Ferry, and gone to Ellis Island to see The Statue of Liberty close up.
As with the museums, the boys had not wanted to go, and apologized profusely for being so rude once they were there and had seen the New York Skyline and the massive statue. At first they were a little reticent about going to the zoos, their attitude being, if you've seen one animal you've seen them all. But once they'd seen them they once again didn't want to leave. Animals they'd only read about lived there. Animals they hadn't believed really existed were there in flesh and blood. The platypus habitat fascinated them no end.
All of them admitted that Coney Island was more fun than any of them had ever had in their lives to that point. They went back to the hotel, sweaty, sticky with cotton candy, sunburned, mildly sick to their stomachs from eating so many hot dogs, and happier than they could ever remember being.
Every evening they returned, loaded down with souvenirs, and all of them had already had to buy more film for their cameras. Especially after a night time trip to Times Square where the sheer number of brightly colored lights and signs dazzled them.
Many of them wondered if they could go back home to their dinky little town after seeing the wonders that existed outside of it, but most admitted after a couple of days that they missed home and that New York, while definitely beautiful, was also overwhelming and they missed their little town and their families.
"One thing for sure, I'm never goin' to Texas." Jim said.
"Why not?" was the group's question.
"Man, they say that everything is bigger in Texas. I don't think I can handle bigger than this." he'd said, to his friend's laughter.
The last day at the New York World Fair was hot, crowded, and amazing. Throughout the day Mrs. Di Marco would buy a little of every food available and split it among the children so that they could save some of their money.
The teens smiled and exclaimed over the Unisphere, an open sculpture of the world, surrounded by fountains which cooled off the air immediately next to them. The antique car ride was a huge success, and the boys loved the Ford Pavilion. Ethel was fascinated by the airplane exhibit, and they took picture after picture of the replicas of dinosaurs in Dinoland.
They went on the Swiss Sky Ride and the monorail, they watched the blacksmiths and tinkers create amazing pieces. They visited 'Korean', 'Chinese' and 'African' market places, buying lovely pieces of jewelry or scarves for their mothers and sculptures for their fathers. Brothers and sisters even got a few toys or souvenirs.
Evening came too soon. The fireworks and fountain display began at nine. They were astounding, and the teens watched, their expressions of wonder and amazement once again making them look more like children of five than teenagers. Mrs. Di Marco took pictures of their faces by the light of the display.
Ethel had also slyly taken pictures of the teen's reactions to various things and places which no one knew about until they got back home. She put together an album showing the animals, buildings, or artwork and their response to it. They'd all asked her for the negatives so that they could make albums of their own. She agreed, but only after removing the bulk of the pictures which appeared to be of Jim.
Amadeo had gone with Jim to pick up his pictures of New York the following Tuesday, and found that more than three rolls were pictures of Ethel alone. Ethel looking at the tigers. Ethel in the gardens, an expression of rapture on her face as she inhaled the scent of the flowers. Ethel looking out over the harbor with her hair blowing in the wind and the skyline behind her.
Jim had tried to hide them, blushing furiously. Amadeo just smiled and patted his friend on the shoulder. They'd been an item for quite some time now, and 'Deo was sure something good was on the horizon for the two of them.
"Just ask her." he said, patting his friend on the shoulder. "It's like you said, you won't be getting married tomorrow, and I think her folks'd respect you for your honesty."